Original Research Article
When Congress passed the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act (IGRA) in 1988, some tribal leaders perceived the state compacting provision required for casino-style gaming on tribal lands as an erosion of tribal sovereignty that could undermine their early economic development successes and disrupt a precariously successful federal-tribal relationship with regard to tribal self-determination.
In hindsight, however, the substantial growth and myriad positive impacts of the first twenty years of tribal gaming under IGRA reveal the ways that the federal regulatory framework laid out in the law resolved numerous legal dilemmas that had plagued tribal gaming expansion. It is now clear that the predictability provided by successful tribal- state compact negotiations allowed the necessary capital investments to produce a robust tribal government gaming industry across much of Indian Country. Therefore, an analysis of tribal government gaming’s impacts on tribal communities and neighboring localities is best framed in the context of the federal law that continues to shape the industry today.